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Weekly roundup of world briefs


September 4, 2020

Biden campaign appears to walk back apology over condemning Linda Sarsour

By Jackson Richman

(JNS) — The Biden campaign has been sending conflicting messages over whether or not it regrets comments directed at Linda Sarsour, a prominent pro-BDS activist.

On a private call on Sunday with dozens of prominent Arab and Muslim activists, the Biden campaign expressed regret over how it construed a statement condemning former Women’s March leader and Bernie Sanders surrogate Linda Sarsour. Sarsour was featured last week at the Democratic National Convention’s Muslim Delegates Assembly, despite her history of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and other bigotry.

In that call, top foreign policy adviser Tony Blinken expressed “regret” over the matter, according to Middle East Eye, which obtained a recording of the call and first reported on it.

National coalitions director Ashley Allison reportedly said, “I am sorry that that happened. And I hope that whatever trust was broken, that this conversation is one small step to help build back the trust, but that is not the last time we have this conversation.”

The call followed the backlash the Biden campaign received from the Arab and Muslim communities after it rebuked Sarsour.

Andrew Bates, the director of rapid response for the Biden campaign, told CNN, “Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life, and he obviously condemns her views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform. She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever.”

On Monday, the Biden campaign disputed that the call was an apology for its reaction to Sarsour.

“We met to affirm Vice President Biden’s unshakeable commitment to working with Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim Americans and to standing up against anti-Muslim prejudice, and to make clear that we regretted any hurt that was caused to these communities,” Biden campaign senior advisor Symone Sanders told JNS. “We continue to reject the views that Linda Sarsour has expressed.”

Palestinian religious authorities forbid Muslims to visit Israel via UAE

(JNS) — The Palestinian Authority’s top Islamic religious officials have declared that any Muslims coming to Israel via the United Arab Emirates to visit the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem are “unwanted” and have issued religious rulings forbidding such visits.

Mahmoud al-Habbash, chairman of the P.A. Supreme Council for Sharia Justice, stated on official P.A. television on Aug. 15 that normalization with Israel/Jews means “that you agree to natural relations with the enemies of Prophet Muhammad,” Palestinian Media Watch reported on Wednesday.

Habbash further stated that any non-Palestinian Muslim coming to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque via the terms of the UAE-Israeli agreement is “unwanted” in the P.A. and will be met with contempt.

P.A. Grand Mufti and Palestinian Supreme Fatwa Council chairman Muhammad Hussein went further and issued a fatwa (Islamic religious ruling) that forbids Muslims who come via the UAE following the peace deal with Israel to pray at Al-Aqsa, according to the report.

“It is forbidden for a Muslim to arrive in a plane of the United Arab Emirates or not of the United Arab Emirates to the Lod Airport [in Israel], which today they call Ben-Gurion Airport, in order to come and pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque. This is false marketing in terms of religious law, legally false, religiously offensive,” said Hussein, according to the report.

US considers selling F-35 fighter jets to UAE

(JNS) — U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the sale of advanced Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates is under consideration, despite an Israeli denial that Jerusalem has given its consent.

“They would like to buy quite a few F-35s,” the president told reporters. “It’s under review,” he said. “They’ve definitely got the money to pay for it.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied on Tuesday that the peace deal announced last week normalizing ties between Israel and the UAE included a clause that allowed for the sale.

“The historic peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates did not include Israel’s consent to any arms deal whatsoever between the United States and the UAE,” he said in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“The F-35 jet is the strongest in the world,” said Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday. “It’s not good to have it circulate in other places.”

Netanyahu’s and Gantz’s statements came on the heels of a Ynet report of a “secret clause” in the Israel-UAE agreement that allows the United States to sell the UAE F-35s and advanced drones.

The accord was first announced by Trump on Aug. 13. According to media reports, talks are underway between the parties to hammer out the details. A signing ceremony reportedly is expected to take place in September or October.

America has traditionally refrained from selling advanced weapons to Arab countries, including those with which Israel has peaceful relations, unless Jerusalem gives its consent. It is a premise of the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship that the Jewish State must maintain its military superiority in the region.

Hoard of 9th-century gold Islamic coins found buried in central Israel

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A rare hoard of 425 Islamic coins from the ninth century were uncovered in central Israel by a group of young people volunteering before their compulsory army service.

The coins, made of solid gold, date to the Abbasid period some 1,100 years ago. The Abbasid Caliphate stretched from Persia to North Africa, with its capital in Baghdad, Iraq.

They were found in an archaeological excavation carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority during the construction of a neighborhood in the center of the country.

The pure 24-karat gold coins were deliberately buried in the ground in a clay jar, according to the directors of the excavation, Liat Nadav-Ziv and Dr. Elie Haddad of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Finding gold coins, especially in such a large quantity, is extremely rare. It is not known what would have prevented the person that hid the coins from returning to retrieve them.

The hoard consists of full gold dinars, as well as about 270 small pieces that had been cut to serve as small change.

A small Byzantine coin fragment was found among the coins, which is evidence of the continuous connections such as war and trade between the two rival empires during this period, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement.

Biden campaign forcefully denounces endorsement of white nationalist Richard Spencer

By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Joe Biden’s presidential campaign forcefully denounced the Democratic nominee’s endorsement by a white nationalist, Richard Spencer.

“When Joe Biden says we are in a battle for the soul of our nation against vile forces of hate who have come crawling out from under rocks, you are the epitome of what he means,” campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said Sunday on Twitter, responding to a tweet by Spencer. “What you stand for is absolutely repugnant. Your support is 10,000% percent unwelcome here.”

Spencer, a prominent white nationalist, said in a conversation that he was shifting his support to Biden from President Donald Trump, whom he supported in 2016, not for ideological reasons but because Biden was more competent.

“I plan to vote for Biden and a straight democratic ticket,” Spencer tweeted. “It’s not based on ‘accelerationism’ or anything like that; the liberals are clearly more competent people.”

“Accelerationism” is a white nationalist strategy that advances liberal policies as a means of sowing chaos, which white nationalists believe will bring about a white supremacist revolution.

In 2016, Trump at first declined to reject the endorsement of white nationalist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, then did so on multiple occasions.

British renters’ union rejects membership for Jewish applicant saying ‘sorry, no time for Zionists’

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — A renters’ union in England apologized after rejecting a membership request from a Jewish person in a message that said “sorry, no time for Zionists.”

The renter also was told in a message sent through the Instagram account of the Acorn Union in Manchester that “we are a pro-Palestine organization.”

On Monday, the union issued an apology “for the upset and offense caused” to its Jewish members and to the general Jewish community. It called the messages anti-Semitic.

The Acorn Union told the London-based Jewish Chronicle that it has opened an internal investigation into the incident. The union has not yet identified the person who sent the messages, according to the newspaper.

After rejecting the Jewish renter, Acorn also blocked the man on Instagram, the U.K. Jewish News reported.

The union was aware that the applicant is Jewish since he uses his Hebrew name on his Instagram profile, and his Instagram profile image uses a Star of David and a hashtag of NoSafeSpaceForJewHate, according to the report.

The union, according to its website, is “a community-based union of working-class people” and a “member-led campaigning organization supporting and empowering low-income communities across the country to fight for a better life.”

Police arrest 2 suspects in beating of Jewish man in Paris elevator

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Police in France arrested two men that they said are behind the allegedly anti-Semitic assault earlier this month on a Jewish man who was knocked unconscious in an elevator.

The National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, a nongovernmental watchdog group, on Wednesday praised police’s “swift identification and arrest” of the two men, who are Black, according to the BNVCA statement.

In the Aug, 6 incident, the victim, identified in the French media only as David S., 29, said he was beaten by two men in the elevator of a Paris building where his parents live and called a “dirty Jew.”

The men followed him into the elevator, according to his police complaint. David sustained minor injuries to the face and throat.

The incident happened at a residential building in the 19th arrondissement, or district, of Paris, where many Jews live.

David said he was rendered unconscious for several minutes because of the force of the blows.

Medical staff prescribed eight days of rest for David. In France, the number of rest days prescribed to assault victims may affect the sentence passed on offenders in case of a conviction.

New York governor vows to take action on Brooklyn weddings if NYC mayor doesn’t

By Shira Hanau

(JTA) — If New York City’s mayor won’t stop weddings in Brooklyn’s Hasidic neighborhoods from happening, the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said Wednesday that he will.

“If the mayor is not doing any enforcement actions, then the state will,” Cuomo said at a news conference, according to the New York Post.

“We’ve had superspreader events in New Rochelle with the Jewish community, we’ve had them in the Catholic community. The virus does not discriminate by religious or racial lines, right? This is an equal-opportunity situation. So we police it in every circumstance.”

The governor’s comments come after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced 16 new cases last week in Borough Park, home to the city’s largest Hasidic population, with several connected to a large wedding. The New York Post also reported Wednesday that several wedding halls in Borough Park continue to host large Orthodox weddings, despite the bans on gatherings of more than 50 people, with people entering through side doors and with windows covered with paper.

Large weddings have resumed in several Orthodox communities, with some contributing to rising case numbers in a number of Orthodox hubs. The rising case numbers led several branches of Hatzalah, the Jewish ambulance corps, to issue warnings after it saw an increase in calls from people reporting COVID-like symptoms. The new cases threaten to keep schools from reopening for the fall, as well as the in-person High Holiday services being planned in several Orthodox communities.


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